The Google Pixel 5 could prove to be the most important smartphone that Google has released to date based on the rumors that it may represent a change of direction for the Pixel series of smartphones.
The Pixel has come to be known primarily for its first-class photography experience, which is due in large part to Google’s computational photography rather than the hardware itself.
With the release of the Pixel 3a last year and the Pixel 4a this year, Google has proven its camera-making abilities thoroughly as these devices, which launched at $399 and $349, respectively, have both been widely praised for the fantastic camera performance, beating virtually anything else at their price point.
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If the rumors are true, the company may be taking those lessons and applying them to the Pixel 5 as well, moving away from the high-end flagship market entirely and, instead, offering a nearly flagship experience with a combination of fantastic software and hardware that is good enough while costing hundreds less than the competition.
Here’s a look at everything that we know so far about the Pixel 5 from its release date and price to specs, design, camera, software and more.
Google Pixel 5 release date
Google hasn’t strayed from an early to mid-October release date for its Pixel lineup since it first launched in 2016, and it appears that concerns about delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic were unfounded.
As part of its announcement of the Pixel 4a, Google also confirmed that the Pixel 5 would be coming “this fall” along with the Pixel 4a 5G. That alone suggested another October launch, but the version of the release published by Google France expressly stated that the “Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 will be available for pre-order from October 8.”
Despite that official Google announcement, which was quickly taken down, according to one of the most reliable leakers in the business Jon Prosser the company will actually be announcing the Pixel 5 alongside the Pixel 4a 5G on September 30. Whether this means a little lag time prior to pre-orders or a change to the original launch date plans is unknown. The latter wouldn't be shocking as Google may wish to get its Pixel 5 launch off before the allegedly delayed launch of the iPhone 12.
What we see in the system isPixel 5 5G (black and green)Pixel 4a 5G (black) - September 30Pixel 4a 5G (white)- OctoberAugust 19, 2020
Google Pixel 5 price
Pricing is one of the more interesting questions regarding the Pixel 5 as all of the rumors point to Google moving downmarket with the Pixel 5 into a more upper mid-range smartphone rather than a true flagship, like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or iPhone 11.
While high-end smartphone fans may grumble at this move, we should see a price reduction from the $799 and $899 price points for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, and in a year when every other flagship has had its price increase.
A Google survey allegedly captured by a Reddit user back in June asked users about two Google Pixel Phones with a brief description of each, including the starting price. The “Google Pixel Phone” that was listed is the Pixel 4a and both the description and $349 price proved to be dead on, so the $699 starting price for the “Premium Google Pixel Phone” is very likely correct for the Pixel 5.
Google Pixel 5 specs
The processor is likely going to be the Pixel 5 spec that gets the most attention as it will reportedly be the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G rather than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 or 865+ found in the flagship smartphones from Samsung and most other Android manufacturers this year.
While multiple rumors have pointed to this over the last several months, evidence found in the code of the Google Camera app by the team at 9to5Google gave the final confirmation. In this leak, the Pixel 5 was matched with the codename “Bramble,” which had previously been identified in Google code as a device that would be using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chipset.
There is no arguing that this will put the Pixel 5 behind the rest of the 2020 flagships in terms of raw processing power. The Snapdragon 765G is closer to the Snapdragon 845 of 2018 in terms of benchmark performance, but the chipset does have a number of advantages beyond the cost savings. It features built-in 5G support for both sub-6GHz and mmWave frequencies just like the Snapdragon 865 (although with slightly lower top speeds). Power efficiency is another hallmark of the 765G and its 7nm process, which has historically been an issue for the Pixel line.
RAM has also often been a shortcoming for Pixels, but it appears that Google won’t be skimping there this year as a recent leak showed that the Pixel 5 should feature 8GB of RAM, up from 6GB in the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. That’s the same amount of RAM found in the $999 Galaxy Note 20, so it should be plenty for the Pixel 5.
Google Pixel 5 Appears On AI Benchmark With Snapdragon 765G & 8GB Of Ram pic.twitter.com/13FFmWR8lGAugust 10, 2020
While there was some concern that Google could repeat its frustrating base 64GB of storage again with the Pixel 5, the Pixel 4a has essentially eliminated those concerns. The Pixel 4a has launched with 128GB of storage and there is no chance that Google’s premium smartphone launches with less.
Google Pixel 5 design
Google has done a pretty impressive job keeping the Pixel 5 under wraps, with no fantastic images of the actual device having leaked yet. What we have seen are some potentially credible renders based on schematics that were allegedly obtained by David Kowalski and made in conjunction with case and accessories vendor Pigtou.
As with any leak, these do need to be taken with a grain of salt and, in this case, the fit and finish should be ignored because they are being inferred from previous Pixels. However, the dimension, angles, cameras and button placement should be accurate.
Not the design everyone was expecting but still the first look of #Google #Pixel5 based on leaked CAD drawings. + 4k video + dimensions. Enjoy guys!Thanks to my partners at @pigtou_ - https://t.co/L3t4dnaFnUp.s. this is not a cancelled Pixel 4a XL pic.twitter.com/xbYC0teUWOJuly 6, 2020
If it does prove true, the design could be a bit polarizing as it is definitely a step forward and a step back in some ways. The bezels are certainly reduced from previous models and the significant notch is gone from the front of the device in favor of an in-display front-facing camera in the upper-left corner. This would indicate that the face unlock sensor is gone, something that is supported by the return of a fingerprint sensor on the back of the device.
The rear camera module appears virtually identical to the Pixel 4 in regards to placement and sensors with the exception of the flash and time of flight sensor. In the images, the camera module does seem to be slightly more pronounced than on the Pixel 4, with the leak claiming the phone is 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches, which would be appropriate as the Pixel 4 was 5.8 x 2.7 x 0.32 inches.
Unlike the Pixel 4a, there is no return of the headphone jack seen here; the USB Type-C port is the lone opening in the Pixel 5 and we know from the previously mentioned Google survey that it will be water-resistant and support wireless charging.
My one concern with this design leak is that it could potentially prove to be the Pixel 4a 5G that is expected to release right alongside the Pixel 5. While dropping face unlock as part of the cost-cutting measures seems plausible to me, the cameras are one feature that stands out as problematic on this design. As I will cover in the next section, many rumors have suggested a move to three cameras for the Pixel 5 and that isn’t depicted here.
We have a bit more confidence in one previously referenced design leak from Jon Prosser, which is that the Pixel 5 will come in black or green, while the Pixel 4a 5G will be offered in black or white.
There has been considerable confusion regarding the Pixel lineup this year with lack of XL devices and shifting release dates for the Pixel 4a, so while we do know quite a bit about the Pixel 5, it is possible that the design has avoided an early reveal.
Google Pixel 5 cameras
The Pixel line has been synonymous with a fantastic photo experience since it first launched in 2016, but this has been attributed to Google’s unsurpassed computational photography skills rather than the actual hardware in its smartphones. This was very much on display last year as the Pixel 4 included only a standard and telephoto lens rather than the more common triple-camera array that adds a wide or ultra-wide-angle sensor to that lineup.
While some other manufacturers have moved on to four camera arrays now, Google is expected to add that third camera to the mix, but there haven’t been any specific credible rumors to that effect. Given the cost savings we are seeing elsewhere on the Pixel 5, including the processor and the presumed elimination of the Soli sensor array, it seems like Google should be able to afford this addition while still coming in at that $699 price point.
What we do know about the Pixel 5 camera is that a number of new software features are coming; these were included in the Google Camera app update for Android 11 that will launch with the Pixel 5.
A new Motion Blur mode will give action shots a more natural blurred look with fast-moving subjects, like what would be possible with a DSLR. Audio Zoom is something that Samsung has been pushing in its flagships of late. It allows you to focus your microphones on a specific subject or at least in a specific direction when you are recording a video and zoom in. Flash intensity is an interesting addition that lets you dictate how bright your flash is rather than simply on or off. The Pixel’s incredible Night Sight functionality makes this less crucial, but for subjects that can’t or won’t stay still, a flash is still a crucial tool for low-light photography.
One final addition is a faster and simpler video share feature that would function much like the current photo sharing with the option to quickly share a video directly after it is captured to one of about 25 different social media or messaging services.
Google Pixel 5 display
The display is another area where there is some disagreement among leakers. Everyone agrees that it will be an OLED display and, if Google has indeed opted for the Snapdragon 765G rather than the standard 765, it will be able to support a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. Then again, 90Hz to match the performance of the Pixel 4 is probably more likely.
The schematics that the design renders were based on suggest a display size of approximately 5.8-inches, which would be just slightly larger than last year’s Pixel 4, although they suggest that it would be QHD like the Pixel 4 XL rather than the FHD resolution of the Pixel 4. This screen size would be an odd choice particularly given that the higher refresh rate will only be able to support FHD anyway, but it is certainly possible.
Given that it seems like Google began developing the Pixel 5 with the idea that there would also be a Pixel 5 XL, it is more plausible that the Pixel 5 will simply be a similar size to the smaller device rather than splitting the difference between the 5.7-inch Pixel 4 and the 6.3-inch Pixel 4 XL.
Google Pixel 5 software
Android 11 should launch alongside the Pixel 5, if not slightly before. The public beta has been running since early June and it is currently on beta 3 with the Android developer's site specifically stating that it will be the last beta before the official launch.
Some of the highlights for Android 11 include a host of new messaging related features like chat bubbles to give you easier access to ongoing chats and a new Conversations category for notifications that will automatically be at the top of your Notification Shade with the ability to prioritize specific conversations to take the top spot.
Speaking of the Notification Shade, it is getting a visual makeover that is meant to help make it more visually distinct from the Quick Settings panel. For those who need to capture their own screens, a new screenshot UI and native screen recording are both coming in Android 11 as well.
Permissions have been a big issue in recent years with many apps seeming to overreach with how much information they need about users and how often. In Android 11, a new feature will let you grant an app permission for “only this time” if you don't want it to have constant access or even access every time you open it.
There’s, of course, much more to come in Android 11, but that’s a quick look at some of the new features that we expect with the Pixel 5. As for Pixel 5-specific features, those are less certain. If the rumors that the Pixel 5 will eliminate the Soli sensor are true, that would do away with one of the only unique features of the Pixel 4.I suspect most won’t be sorry to see it go as it fell short of expectations.
Google Pixel 5 outlook
It seems clear that Google is taking a gamble with the Pixel 5 this year. While a somewhat surprising number of features remain unclear, we know enough about the hardware to see that it will be a move away from true flagship status and that is not really something we have seen a prominent manufacturer do.
With that said, Google could be uniquely positioned to make it work. The Pixel line has never really managed to go toe-to-toe with the competition when it came to specs anyway and it was more of a triumph of software that even made it close. This move to a Snapdragon 765G basically concedes that point while still delivering 5G and what should be solid performance for daily use and some gaming.
The question is whether Google has made the right cuts and if it can deliver 90% of the $999+ flagship experience but at $699. If it can, particularly in our current economic conditions, it may well have found the perfect niche for itself.